Monday, 30 January 2012

The Wooden Wig Cradle & An Alternative! Plus, needle safety...

A few posts ago, when I was talking about ventilating position, I mentioned the wig cradle. It is made from wood and looks like this:

For those of you who are interested, it can be purchased from the wig making supplier, Banbury Postiche:
They are located in the UK and do ship abroad, although you may need to email them for a shipping quote due to the bulkiness of the item.

For those of you who do not want to purchase one or, as in my case, do not have the funds to spend on one (I need to save the money for other things!), I have come up with a pseudo wig cradle idea....

I use a stiff cardboard box! I have two of differing sizes; both of which were originally packaging boxes for items I had bought from stores. They are stiff sided (corrugated cardboard perhaps?), which helps to keep the wig block stable and the box rigid.

Block face down - so I can work the back and crown

Block standing up - suitable for working on a hard surface like a desk or table when ventilating the top/vertex

Block on the side - so I can ventilate at this angle

I also have another box like this that is a little narrower. Of course, if I wanted to, I could cut the V shapes into the ends, but I find that the block rests okay in the box as it is and does not move around. I then use the box on my lap (sometimes raising the height if necessary by putting a cushion under it). I don't always use it, but I found it particularly helpful for ventilating the first few inches of the nape. It is also useful to safely store your ventilating needle, comb and scissors should you be called away from your work (e.g. if the phone rings). On that note...

Ventilating needles are quite dangerous as they have a catchy hook in them, which is designed to catch the hair in so that you can knot it. Unlike a crochet hook, which has a rounded end to the catchy part of the hook, a ventilating needle is quite sharp. It can catch soft furnishings, clothes and skin. I am always really conscious of this around pets and small children. One aspect I had not thought about at first was how dangerous this needle/hook can be around eyes! It would be lethal if the needle got stuck in someone's eye as removing the catchy part of it (which gets stuck in things) would cause untold damage. For that reason I urge anyone reading this who is thinking of ventilating or already ventilates wigs to please be very careful with the needles. Wearing glasses is a good way of protecting your own eyes, but remember the eyes of pets and children and other people around you.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Progress in Pictures

Last time I posted, I was at this stage:

Here is my latest update on wig making progress...

I am continuing to keep the density light and will progress to light-medium by the time I am an inch or two below the crown. I am pleased thus far! P.S. I just realised I did not take the picture of the "alternative wig cradle" as I had promised to do in my last post... so I will definitely go do that and will add it tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dark Hair Contrasting Against Wig Block - Thoughts...

I watch Jamesgirl37 on YouTube, if you haven't seen her channel, then check it out:

Anyway, she was talking about using white paper or tissue (or something white) on the block to get a better contrast between dark hair, lace and the block when ventilating. Everyone has always seemed to favour using blue tape. I do find blue tape quite good - especially useful for creating patterns, markings and instructions on the block, which you can remove easily once you are done (as you peel the tape off and just reapply some new to re-cover it). So Jamesgirl's got me thinking about whether I will try using something else... I have cream masking tape, which I could try. I have used paper before, but I find it does not work well for a wig - it's fine for toppers, closures or just practising in small areas. I do sometimes find it hard to see the knots, but I think this is more related to when I have insufficient light. As soon as I aim a bright beam of light onto my work, my eyes seem to see a lot clearer. Anyway, if I do experiement, I will be sure to document it.

Later today, I shall take a picture of an alternative wig cradle solution - to save money - that I have been using and will post that next time I write here.

Monday, 16 January 2012

A Quick Update

I have to admit to having had a few rest days recently. For a while there, I was going for gold and doing some work each day on the ventilation. However, I caught some 'bug' or fluey cold thing and eventually had to just take a proper time out to recuperate.

The good news is that I am slowly on the mend. Unfortunately - due to medical reasons - I tend to take a while longer to shake viruses off than the average person. So finally today, I picked my needle up again and indulged in a little knotting action.

I am hoping tomorrow to get down to it properly and put a few hours of hard work into it. I shall take another set of updated pics because I will have progressed to working on the honeycomb tulle - by itself - section and will be figuring out density.

During my down-time, I have continued to experiment with styling techniques. I did a whole tutorial on Wigs and Head Covers on how to do pin curls on a wig. I acutally used the section of hair I have added on the wig I am making as my demo wig hair - it was useful as not too much hair to lose clarity for close up pictures of what I was doing. So I had a go at doing them on a shorter wig. I realised that I prefer the effect on longer wigs - so hair that is approximately 12 inches or longer. I don't really like the way they come out on shorter wigs as you don't get enough 'repeat' of the curl or wave.

Here's a few pics of my experiments with shorter hair...

I prefer the end result on longer hair - this was showing half a section done, and I had only left it for about 2 hours to set (normally I would leave it overnight):
The good thing about pin curls is that I don't need to use any heat to do them. For me, learning to style wigs is equally as interesting as learning to make them. I am very much a person who enjoys working with hair - no matter what... so I guess I will be doing more of these experiments in the future!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Video Update

For anyone who does not find this blog from my YouTube channel, here's my latest video:

Monday, 9 January 2012

Working Position - Ventilating Position

I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the importance of having a good working position or ventilating position. I touched very briefly on this issue a while ago in this blog, but I have done enough of my own work now to be able to comment more in depth on it.

Obviously wig making is a time consuming activity to engage in and because of the nature of the beast you can find yourself sat for incredibly long periods looking at something in very minute detail. This type of work can have quite a negative impact on your body if you are not careful and mindful. There are several things to think about:

1. The position you sit in
2. Your eyes
3. Breaks

The position you sit in to work - I have tried quite a number of positions now, ranging from the obvious one of sitting at a surface such as a table, workbench or desk through to the less obvious of sitting in a squishy armchair with lots cushions and a beanbag to rest my legs on! I also have ventilated in bed, on my bed, sitting on a couch and probably some others I cannot even remember.

One thing I have noticed is that it depends on what type of work I am doing as to which position is more suitable and comfortable. For me, hand sewing tends to work quite well with the block on a clamp at a table/desk/bench or with the block in my lap while I am sitting on the couch or in an armchair with my feet on the ground.

When ventilating, I need to be able to change the position and height of the block more easily and it varies quite markedly as to what angle/height I need the wig block to be at, depending on which area I am working on. For example, if I am working on the right side of the foundation, I like to swivel the block so that this side is primary to me rather than twisting myself to reach it/look at it. In addition, ventilating for long stretches is definitely more comfortable, for me personally, if I am sitting in a comfy seat rather than at a table/desk/bench. So I have been finding it more comfortable to sit with my legs supported by something so I can have them higher up (not on the ground), either resting on a large beanbag or a footstool. That way I can have them bent or crossed and prop the wig block up on them. I have also been using a cushion on my legs and then putting the block on that (the cushion is like the scatter type you use on a couch and is feather, so it moulds to the block shape if I press down on it a little bit and stops it from rolling side to side or away from me).

Side note -  I know I am not the only person who ventilates in a position where their legs are raised (if they are not using a clamp or stand). I once watched a video of a theatrical wig maker who worked by sitting on a high stool with her legs propped up on a high level work surface/bench! The block was placed in her lap. She spent hours ventilating like that - so I guess what works for you really does depends on your body and any physical issues you need to overcome/compensate for (e.g. if you already have a back or neck problem to bear in mind).

If I want to ventilate on my bed, I usually sit cross legged and then rest the block on my legs, again using a cushion to raise the height of the block. I put lots of pillows behind me to support my back and shoulders. You can get a wig cradle to put your wig block in, as this helps to stabilise the block when working with it in a horizontal position. It functions regardless of whether you are working at a table or with the cradle resting on your lap. It looks like this:

Available from Banbury Postiche.

If you are working at a desk/table/bench you may want to get an adjustable chair that allows you to adjust the angle of the backrest and seat, as well as the height of the seat to an appropriate level. Office chairs are good for this purpose. If you don't have one or can't afford one and find you are sitting too low, then use some cushions or seat pads to raise the height of your chair seat. If your work surface (and thus the wig) is too low, then raise the level of the block by using an adjustable clamp or put something large (phone directories, old shoe boxes filled with books) under the block/cradle to raise the height of the block so that it is nearer your eyes/hands. 

To sum up...

- Vary the position you sit in as this can help prevent muscle ache 

- Use props, if necessary, to support your body - e.g. cushions under arms or against your back or under your bottom (!) to raise you to the right height when working at a hard surface or a footstool or beanbag to support your feet/legs

- Ensure your block is at the correct angle so as to prevent neck strain/pain and shoulder tension

Your Eyes - Lighting is important because it can make so much difference to how well you are seeing the area you are working on. I have even thought I was seeing quite well until I turned extra lighting on and then realised that I was actually straining a little bit to see clearly. This is especially a factor if working during the winter or in the evening/at night. You can get specialist daylight lamps and magnifyer lamps that are free standing on a table top, clamp to a surface or are free standing on the floor. If you can't afford one, using a desk lamp to spotlight the area you are working on can be helpful. I sometimes use one like this:

Glasses are another factor - I do think it is worth getting your eyes checked if you have not recently had an eye exam and mentioning the close work you are doing or will be doing. I wear glasses for mild short sightedness and astigmatism. I have noticed that when I am doing any close work (not just wig making, but crafting etc.), if I look up after focusing on an item close-up, I cannot focus properly for distance vision. If I wear my glasses, I don't have this problem, so to avoid eye strain and complete blurriness when I look up, I have been wearing them for wig making.

Use a contrasting backgroung colour to help your eyes see the difference between hair and lace/foundation material. Bright blue paper or blue painters tape helps to create contrast between the lace and hair. This can be very important if you are using less 'visible' hair. For example, I am currently using dark hair against a pale/translucent lace, which is fine if the lighting is good as the dark against light is fairly obvious. However, when doing repair work for someone else, I was working with blonde hair on a translucent lace. The base colour of my block is a kind of of taupey grey and is not very useful for helping anything (dark or light) to show up. In this instance (when working with lighter hair) I would definitely use some kind of brighter colour behind it - the blue works well and is favoured by wig makers. You can cover the block (or styrofoam head if you are using one of those) with it fairly easily or, if you are in a pinch and have some bright blue paper, you can use that by pinning a small section of it to the block or head under the area you are working on. I have used both and they work equally well visually. Although in the long term, the tape works better as you can cover the whole area you will be working on. If you use the paper, it's not practical to cover the whole area as you will find you have pins holding the paper down which get in the way of your work and could potentially snag your foundation.

To sum up...

- Ensure adequate, bright lighting is illuminating the area you are working on
Create constrast between the hair and lace if necessary
- Wear glasses, if needed, and/or use a magnifyer to prevent eye strain

- Make sure to keep your work close enough that you can see it well - use a cushion, wig cradle, clamp or stand to get the block at the correct distance

Breaks - it is easy to get sucked into the wig making vortex and end up ventilating for hours with no break. It is a good idea to change positions every so often - get up and walk around for a few minutes, have a drink, look at something in the distance (good for your eyes to focus on far away if you have been focusing on close-up work for a while - according to my optician)... stretch! Give your hands a wiggle - they can get a bit stiff (in my case) and sore from holding the hair under a certain amount of pressure and from holding the needle holder. If you struggle to remember to take a break, set a timer to go off periodically.

Wig making should be fun! As it takes quite a long time to make a wig from scratch (especially if you are a beginner and learning how to make the foundation and to get into a ventilating rhythm), it is worthwhile taking a little time to figure out a good position so that you can enjoy many happy, flexible and pain-free hours of wig making!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

New Pictures... Finished the Nape

Here's some pictures to update the blog - I have finished the extened nape. I will perhaps add more hair to the edge (where the galloon is - to conceal it more effectively) and at the end of making the wig, I will ventilate a couple of rows to the inside to help conceal the edges. Sorry they are not the best quality - I shot them with my phone and the lighting was not the best! I think you can get a better idea of density from these versus the braided shots of the post before. There's not as much hair as one might think!

I am now working on the mid-section where I have the wide galloon. In this area, I have lace overlapping tulle, so it's quite hard work ventilating it. The lace holes are on top and small, so I am ventilating into that rather than aiming for the tulle. I hope to finish this section in the next couple of days and then move onto ventilating into the tulle by itself.

Lastly, and for fun, I set the hair I have ventilated into pin curls - they came out well. After I defined some of the frizzier ones a little better:

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Ventilating - Step 1 ~ The Extended Nape

The past couple of weeks have seen me finally getting time to set to and start ventilating. It's great - I really enjoy it and I find it very relaxing. However, let's be frank for a moment... Boy oh boy does it take a long time! I know I am not 'up to speed' yet; I can feel each time I pick up that needle holder, that I am getting into the process and the rhythm quicker than the time before, which is progress.

As one would normally ventilate a wig from the nape upwards, I have been focusing on the extended nape to begin with. Admittedly, it will take me longer to ventilate this wig than if I were making one without an extended nape, as that extension is a good deal more hair to add than if it were not there. This is compounded by the fact that the lace I used in that area is very fine (lots of tiny holes). It would be easy to add way too much hair there! As I do not want to end up looking like Cousin Itt:, I decided to go light on the ventilation. I would say the first inch is probably what most people would term light density and the rest is very light. I am realising that I truly am a less is more hair wearer. The pictures I am showing are from a little while ago, as I have actually now finished this section (and will post more up-to-date pics shortly). So what you see is the more densely ventilated area at the bottom, starting to lighten out towards where the honeycomb lace starts.

I have plaited/braided the hair to keep it out of the way while working. At this stage it seems easier to plait/braid it, than to try and use clips, which get in the way as I have not worked a large section. When I take the next round of pictures, I will be sure to photograph the hair loose, so you can get an idea of the amount that has been used.

To be honest, I do think that at this stage there is a real art to getting density right. It is hard to judge! I have been trying to think about my own hair and how that looked before I had any hair loss. The hair I am using is not good hair - it is processed and a mixture of strands, it is naturally wavy and I know it would be really easy to put too much in, as my own hair strands have always been finer than this. So... with that in mind, I am trying to achieve coverage (of the foundation) without over-dense ventilation. I keep reminding myself that this whole process is me learning and mistakes are allowable.

A tip - if you are ventilating a lot, find a movie or some music (or something!) that you can listen to. I really think it helps to keep a rhythmn and to just get into the zone. I have been ventilating to DVDs, the radio, tv shows. I even ventilated to all 3 Lord of the Rings movies - strangely inspiring and motivating seeing as so many of the characters on there are wearing lace front or full lace wigs!